It’s -50° Fahrenheit outside.
This frigid temperature isn’t all that unusual in these parts, as we’re in a jet at 34,000 feet, on a flight leg from Atlanta to Frankfurt. Thanks to a 125 MPH tailwind we’re hauling butt at a ground speed of 675 MPH.
We’re on a trip from Portland, Oregon to Frankfurt, Germany, where we join a coach tour through parts of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Our first leg took us to Atlanta, where we picked up the speedy flight over the big pond.
Traveling has evolved over the years. Before airplanes, getting anywhere took a long time. In the early days of aviation, flying was only for brave adventurers. These days it’s accessible to most folks. Maybe even a little too accessible, as the airport experience is losing its charm.
Our flight from Atlanta had about 250 people on board, and the boarding process was evocative of a cattle call. Apart from trying to board passengers with pricier tickets first, there didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to it. Once on the airplane, those of us in economy class discovered we’d evolved from cows to chickens, as our leg and maneuver room suggested the plight of the cage raised fowl.
At last we were in the air. Crossing the Atlantic still takes a while, giving us plenty of time to check out our fellow travelers. Many of them appeared to be couples or family groups.
Like many modern conveniences, we seem to take for granted that screaming through the air in a big metal tube at 500 plus miles per hour is safe enough that we’ll take along our children and not think twice about it. As we cruised up the eastern seaboard, family members chit chatted away. Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York all passed by during diner service. A toddler, demonstrating a worst case scenario of the terrible twos crossed with the Energizer Bunny fussed and carried on for hours. His parents demonstrated a certain magical forbearance; despite the embarrassment and frustration they managed to not strangle the little tyke. Another woman, apparently traveling alone, was running a slide show on her tablet. The subject was her young son and husband – you could almost feel her missing them. It occurred to me that we take affection for granted, with all the media reports about people treating each other badly we sometimes fail to notice people treating each other well, even at 675 MPH.
The great circle route would take us on over Nova Scotia, Greenland, and Great Britain before going on to the continent and landing in Germany. Although it was still late afternoon in Portland, it was the middle of the night in Germany so my wife Priscilla and I thought it wise to attempt some sleep. So we wished each other good night, said our “I love you’s”, and while hurtling through the air at a ridiculous speed I set a pillow on my shoulder for her head and we settled in for the evening snooze.